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19 March 1998 Edition

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Remembering the Past: Drumboe executions (contd)

By Aengus O Snodaigh

During the truce period of 1921 Charlie Daly and Seán Larkin reorganised the IRA in the Tyrone/Derry area and implemented an intensive period of training. When on 6 December 1921 the Irish delegation in London accepted the Articles of Agreement (Treaty) Daly and Larkin were among the first to reject its terms.

At Christmas 1922 Charlie returned to Kerry for a short period where he appealed for Volunteers to return north with him to challenge the Orange state. Among those who joined him were Dan Enright and Tim O Sullivan, experienced Volunteers.

The reorganised IRA launched numerous attacks on the crown forces in the Donegal/Tyrone/Derry border region. May and June 1922 saw serious engagements between the IRA divisions and crown forces at Pettigo-Belleek, Clady, Strabane and Lifford.

With the outbreak of open hostilities between the Free State and the IRA Charlie Daly tried to halt the spread of the conflict and appealed to the staters in County Donegal to join in the unfinished work of establishing a united Ireland, and the immediate task of protecting nationalists in the new Orange state from sectarian pograms. His appeals fell on deaf ears and on 28 June they attacked republican positions in County Donegal.

The IRA responded with attacks on staters in East Donegal at Manorcunningham, Drumkeen, Castlefin and Lifford before being forced to retreat further into the county. Daly reported to HQ soon after,''We had something over 100 men at the start, some of them were spies and traitors. In the course of a few weeks we were left with only 30 men and nearly all of them were strangers to the county.''

He also outlined the harsh conditions which his and other IRA columns operated under during the Civil War. ``The country is so assuredly poor that we could hardly get enough to eat. We are often glad when we get potatoes and salt, or a bit of bread and a drop of tea, no matter what side their sympathies were with, they were always hospitable.''

The 2 November sweep followed in which Daly, Larkin, Enright and Sullivan were captured at Dunlewy in the shadow of Errigal mountain. They were court-martialled in January and on 14 March 1923 the four were marched, from Drumboe Castle where they were being held, to an improvised firing range about 30 yards up a gentle sloping field in the nearby woods. They were summarily executed at this spot.

The song ``Take it down from the mast'' sums up the feelings of republicans after the Drumboe executions 75 years ago this week.

Take it down from the mast, Irish traitors
The flag we Republicans claim.
It can never belong to Free Staters,
You've brought on it nothing but shame.

You've murdered brave Liam and Rory,
You've taken young Richard and Joe.
Your hands with their blood are all gory,
Fulfilling the work of the foe.

But we stand with Enright and Larkin,
With Daly and Sullivan bold.
We'll break down the English connection,
And bring back the nation you sold.

So leave to those who are willing,
To uphold it in war and in peace.
The ones who intend to defend it
Until England's tyranny cease.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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